As a breastfeeding mom, you may find yourself sick and not feeling well at some point during your breastfeeding journey. Even if you’re eating healthy and your immune system is strong, you may come down with a virus or bacterial infection that causes you to feel unwell.
It is important that you find solutions to help you feel better quicker. In this post, I will answer the questions:
Can you safely take Emergen-C while breastfeeding?
Can you safely take Vitamin C while breastfeeding?
Additionally I will be providing other helpful tips for a healthy immune system while breastfeeding.
Please note that this article contains affiliate links, and that means that I may earn a commission if you buy something (at no additional cost to you). Read my full disclosure here. I only recommend products I use and love and recommend to my clients.
What Is Emergen-C?
Emergen-C is a vitamin mix put into a solid tablet or powder that you can add to water, dissolve, and take as a vitamin supplement to help you feel better in less time. It is essentially a vitamin drink mix.
It contains a high dose of Vitamin C and other vitamins like Zinc and B vitamins which help your immune system fight off whatever may be causing you to feel sick. You can adjust the amount of water based on your taste if you prefer drinks sweeter or more diluted.
Taking Vitamin C, like Emergen-C, works best as a preventative measure if you’ve been exposed to someone that was sick. It has been shown to reduce the length of colds when taken as a preventative measure.
If you take too much Vitamin C, you may experience nausea, stomach cramping, or diarrhea. If you take high amounts for prolonged periods of time, you could expose yourself to developing kidney stones.
Is It Safe To Take Emergen-C While Breastfeeding?
Yes, it is safe to take Emergen-C while breastfeeding. While Emergen-C is the most well-known of high dose Vitamin C brands, there are other Emergen-C like options available that contain better ingredients and may also be more effective.
Keep reading through the post for more information on alternatives to the Emergen-C product and other ways to prevent getting sick or to cure a cold. Always consult with your primary care doctor first, before you take any new medications while you are breastfeeding and if you are taking other medications to avoid contraindications.
Can I Take Vitamin C While Breastfeeding?
Yes, Vitamin C is a necessary vitamin that should be consumed while breastfeeding. It is often included in a prenatal or postnatal vitamin, so it is important to continue using that while you’re breastfeeding to ensure adequate levels of Vitamin C and other vital nutrients. You can also get Vitamin C through fruits and vegetables.
If you are sick, you can increase the dosage of Vitamin C to 3,000 mg per day depending on what your body will tolerate. Typically, if you overconsume Vitamin C you will experience diarrhea, stomach cramps, or nausea as a side effect. Your baby may also experience loose stools. If this happens to you, be sure to reduce the amount you’re taking.
According to a study among breastfeeding moms on the effects of Vitamin C, sixty healthy lactating women between 1 and 6 months postpartum and exclusively breastfeeding their infants were given vitamin C 500 mg plus vitamin E 100 IU once daily for 30 days, or no supplementation. Infants of supplemented mothers had increased biochemical markers of antioxidant activity in their urine.
This study tells us that Vitamin C can be passed through breast milk to your baby. This is a great thing because it can help increase your baby’s immune system and keep them healthy, or help them recover faster if they do get sick.
This is why it is important to continue breastfeeding even if you’re sick. The antibodies and other vitamins that are passed through your milk will reach your baby.
Other Nutrients That Pass Through Breast Milk to Baby
Breast milk is truly amazing in the fact that we can pass so many amazing nutrients through our milk to our babies. Vitamin C isn’t the only nutrient that passes through your milk. In addition to water, other vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that will reach your baby include:
- Vitamins B-6 & B-12
- Vitamins A, E, K, & D
- Amino Acids
- Lipids (fats)
Do Emergen-C & Vitamin C Increase Milk Supply?
Yes, Emergen-C and Vitamin C can increase your milk supply! High doses of up to 1,000 mg or more of Vitamin C can cause an increase in your milk supply. This does not negatively affect your baby and should not be a reason to stop breastfeeding.
If you notice an increase in supply, be sure you are emptying your breasts often by nursing your baby. Your baby needs those antioxidant properties as much as you to help them fight off any virus or infection.
If you are concerned about an oversupply or an infection, be sure you are hand expressing to relieve any discomfort. Try to avoid pumping in addition to nursing (unless you are bottle-feeding your baby, of course) as that can stimulate more milk production.
What Ingredients Are In Emergen-C & Are They Compatible With Nursing?
There are quite a few vitamins and minerals in Emergen-C, which are all good for you while you are nursing. They also aid in keeping you and your baby healthy since they pass through your milk.
To help preserve the contents of the vitamin mixture, there are a few ingredients that are not healthy and not ideal for a breastfeeding mom. Taking Emergen-C long-term or every day for several weeks even is not a good idea because of ingredients like cysteine hydrochloride. While it is an antioxidant agent, it is not a naturally occurring antioxidant and therefore should be used sparingly.
Below are the main immune-boosting vitamins and nutrients contained in Emergen-C and how they affect breastfeeding moms and milk composition and supply. All of these can pass through your milk to your baby in different quantities.
Vitamin C is an important nutrient that your body needs especially while breastfeeding to reduce cold and other respiratory infections and symptoms. There have been numerous studies confirming that getting enough Vitamin C can reduce cold symptoms.
Getting adequate Vitamin C also reduces inflammation in your body, promotes healthy skin, and neutralizes toxins in your body, called free radicals. Vitamin C is found naturally in many fruits and vegetables like kiwi fruit, bell peppers, oranges, and strawberries. If you can increase your intake of Vitamin C naturally in your diet, that is the best way to maintain an optimal level.
This is a necessary vitamin that is used by your body and passed through your milk to your baby. It is naturally found in many foods like meat, fish, cheese, eggs, spinach, and broccoli.
If you have a deficiency, you’ll need to supplement with higher doses beyond your prenatal or postnatal vitamin. Sufficient amounts of B-12 are important for both you and your baby.
If you’re eating a healthy diet, you will likely get plenty of Vitamin B-6. Foods like salmon, chickpeas, dark leafy greens, papaya, oranges, and cantaloupe all contain this important vitamin.
Prenatal and postnatal vitamins typically contain adequate amounts of Vitamin B-6, but if you’re trying to boost your immune system, Emergen-C will help you get more since it contains it.
Alpha Lipoic Acid
ALA, as it’s commonly referred to, is naturally occurring in the body. It serves as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent to protect your body’s cells from harm. ALA is best to take with Vitamin C, which is a good reason why it is included in the Emergen-C ingredients.
It is considered safe to take for breastfeeding mothers and shows low risk for lactating mothers. Always monitor your breastfed infant and milk supply for any unusual side effects from any supplements, herbs, or medications you may be taking.
Combined with Omega-3, ALA has also been shown to help postpartum perineal pain among postpartum mothers due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
When consumed as part of your regular diet, quercetin is passed through your milk to your baby. The amount contained in Emergen-C is safe for breastfeeding moms. Quercetin is a bioflavonoid and can help your immune system fight off viruses. It should not be overconsumed, but eating foods rich in quercetin like onions may help boost your immune system.
This is an important mineral for breastfeeding moms and can help fight off viruses and bacterial infections. This is passed to your baby through your breast milk. Zinc also helps your metabolism function well.
Zinc is important as you recover after having a baby (helps with wound healing). It is also critical for your taste and smell. If you’re eating a variety of whole foods including chicken and red meat, you should be getting enough zinc for everyday needs.
You can supplement as necessary if you have a cold while breastfeeding, or use Emergen-C which already contains it.
Here is the Complete List of Ingredients for Emergen-C
Sodium, Potassium, Total Carbohydrate, Sugars, Vitamin C, Calcium, Riboflavin, Phosphorous, Magnesium, Thiamin, Niacin, Folic Acid, Zinc, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B6, Pantothenic Acid, Manganese, Chromium, Alpha Lipoic Acid, Quercetin.
Other Ingredients: Fructose, Cane Sugar, Citric Acid, Tangerine Juice Powder, Natural Tangerine Flavor, Tapioca Maltodextrin, Malic Acid, Silica, Glycine, Beta Carotene, Aspartic Acid, Tartaric Acid, and Cysteine Hydrochloride.
How Much Emergen-C & Vitamin C Can I Safely Take While Breastfeeding?
The amount of Emergen-C or Vitamin C you take in one day will be dependent on the need and duration. If you are sick or trying to boost your immune system, in the short term you can typically take up to one packet of Emergen-C up to 2 times per day while breastfeeding.
If you are only taking Vitamin C, without the other vitamins that Emergen-C has in it (or taking them separately), you can usually take up to 3,000 mg a day, but only 1,000 mg at any one time while breastfeeding.
There are no serious side effects typically associated with taking high doses of Vitamin C in the short term, other than stomach discomfort or diarrhea. If you or your baby experience either of these, reduce the amount of Vitamin C you are taking.
For an ongoing dose, you can take 1,000-2,000 mg of Vitamin C per day depending on your general diet (you don’t need this much if you are getting enough through whole foods and/or your prenatal/postnatal vitamin).
Does Emergen-C or Vitamin C Actually Work to Prevent Getting Sick?
Emergen-C or Vitamin C does work to boost your immune system and prevent you from getting sick. Other factors that may help you include:
- Eating a healthy diet- focus on fresh fruits and vegetables to help increase your consumption of vitamins and minerals naturally.
- Getting plenty of sunlight- Vitamin D3 is very important for your immune system and the overall functioning of your body. You should strive for 15 minutes at least 3-4 times a week without sunscreen or other protection. If you don’t get enough sunlight regularly, take a Vitamin D3 supplement.
- Exercising- moving your body is a great way to sweat and get rid of toxins. Try walking 30 minutes at least 4-5 times a week or another exercise that gets your body moving.
- Managing stress- a stressful life can immediately lower your immune system. Create a plan to have time for yourself, or do an activity that reduces your stress levels like yoga or reading a book.
Other Ways To Get Rid of a Cold While Breastfeeding
If you get a cold while breastfeeding, you want to take care of yourself by resting as much as possible. That can be hard, especially if you have other children running around.
Your rest and energy are important so you can continue to make milk for and best take care of your new baby. Give yourself some grace during this time and let the house chores go temporarily, and use your support system and partner to rest as much as possible.
I’ve used this type of Vitamin C personally many times and it’s my favorite Vitamin C supplement because it works quickly and is absorbed better by your body. It is not the best tasting, but if you add it into a little bit of juice, you can consume it quickly. Vitamin C can help you maintain your supply while you are sick also, especially if you don’t feel hungry.
If you prefer Vitamin C without any other minerals, this is a good option for 1,000 mg capsules. You can take these three times a day, spaced out morning, noon, and night.
Vitamin D is essential for your body’s overall functioning and especially important for your baby. It is recommended that moms supplement with Vitamin D (rather than giving your baby a supplement). A 2015 study concluded that supplementing the mothers of exclusively breastfed babies with 6,400 IU of Vitamin D per day is a safe and effective alternative to directly supplementing babies with 400 IU vitamin D per day. This particular supplement is ideal because it contains Vitamin K2 which works together with Vitamin D3 to keep calcium out of your arteries and move it into where it needs to be- your bones.
You’ll want to ensure you’re staying hydrated while you have a cold. Fluids are important, and sometimes we don’t want water when we’re sick. You can add these healthy electrolytes to your water to make it better tasting and fuel your body with extra minerals like magnesium. Electrolytes can also help maintain your milk supply. If you don’t want to take a supplement, drink water with Himalayan Salt and lemon juice, or coconut water.
This is a safe herb to take if you’re breastfeeding and especially helpful if you’re fighting a viral cold. Although anecdotal, it is also thought to pass through your breast milk to your baby.
As mentioned above, zinc is an important mineral for breastfeeding moms and can help fight off viruses and bacterial infections. This is passed to your baby through your breast milk.
About 75% of the population is deficient in magnesium and doesn’t realize it. Unfortunately, due to the nature of our evolving food supply, the nutrients are stripped from many of the foods we consume, even some fruits and vegetables. It is important to supplement with magnesium even if you’re not sick. You’ll experience better sleep, more mental clarity, and better digestion.
Garlic is a great whole food and also a natural antiviral agent. There was a study performed on breastfeeding babies that indicated babies prefer milk that tastes like garlic. However, it can cause gastric discomfort, especially in infants, so be aware.
This is a great herb that can help boost your immune system and is safe to take in moderation while breastfeeding. This is not recommended in high doses for more than two weeks at a time.
These can help your digestive tract, and the more we learn about how important our gut is, the more we realize that it also helps our immune system stay strong. Prebiotics and probiotics are important. My preference is soil-based/whole-food-based options because they are more natural.
Use tea to relax you and heal your throat if it is sore. This tea can be used even if you’re not sick as a relaxing agent. The rooibos tea is a great antioxidant tea on its own and does not contain caffeine, it is sometimes called “red tea” as well.
As always, be sure you consult your healthcare provider to check for potential drug interactions. You can also seek out a lactation consultant, natural doctor, or herbalist to help you navigate the safest supplements to take while breastfeeding.
Before I sign off, I do want to mention that I am indeed a lactation consultant and can help you virtually with your breastfeeding questions. If that sounds like something you need or want, book your consult here.
It is safe to take Emergen-C or Vitamin C while breastfeeding as long as you are smart about how much you are putting in your body.
If you want to ensure you’re taking enough Vitamin C check your prenatal or postnatal vitamin (at least 100% of the suggested daily value as noted on the label), and increase your consumption of whole foods like kiwi, bell peppers, oranges, strawberries, pineapple, broccoli, tomatoes, and spinach.
You can safely take Emergen-C or Vitamin C while breastfeeding when doing it in short durations (days at a time) and limiting the amount you’re consuming. Also, be sure to space out the dosage during the day so you are only taking 1,000 mg at one time.